The Lord Jesus taught us: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:31-36)
Let’s imagine that we are now in heaven. We’ve made it to the kingdom of God. I look around at the other people who are also in God’s Kingdom. I see some people who were always kind to me back on earth, so I try to figure out how to be kind to them here in heaven. I see someone who forgave me in my lifetime when I really hurt them, so I walk up to them and talk to them. Over there I see some people who I never liked in life, and they turn away from me and pretend I’m not there. That’s OK by me as I don’t really want to deal with them. I see someone else who betrayed me one time and told all my friends and family about something bad I had done. They were truthful about what they said, but it embarrassed me and caused other people to condemn me. When I see that person in heaven, I’m disgusted and decide to find people I like rather than have to be around someone who told everybody about my problems.
What is wrong with this picture of heaven?
It’s just like earth.
So we have to think what did our Lord Jesus teach us about how we are to treat people who have cursed us or despised us or hated us or wronged us or offended us? We are to treat them as we want to be treated.
Heavenly values are not: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. They are not about reciprocity. There is no retaliation in heaven. No mutual gift exchanges either. No treating others as they deserve. Rather, the only principle guiding how people are to treat one another in God’s Kingdom is Love. Treat others in the same way that you hope God will treat you on Judgement day – with mercy, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness. Those are heavenly values.
When Jesus says, if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? He is saying, what sort of gift is that? Is it a gift to pay people back for the good things they do for you? That’s not a gift, that’s just pay back. On the other hand, God gives His gifts to us whether we are good or evil. God gives rain and sunshine to all. God’s gifts go far beyond what is expected, deserved, earned, because they are gifts of love. God gives us life, and we are supposed to be pro-life, which also means we should love all who are alive (which we also know is very hard!)
From the Triads of St Paul (19th Century British Document), we do encounter a Christian thinker reflecting on what Jesus commands us to do: “There are three ways a Christian punishes an enemy: by forgiving him, by not divulging his sin, by doing all the good in his power.” We punish them by not behaving as they behave, and by not giving them any reason to hate us. They’ll have that!
Jesus said: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
This used to be called what? The Golden Rule
This rule says to treat people as you want to be treated. If you want people to respect you – what do you need to do? Respect them. Don’t try to buy their respect by giving them gifts or praise, that is bribery. Don’t just do them favors so that they will think well of you. That’s manipulation. If you want their respect, respect them, treat them with respect. Treat everyone as you want to be treated. Don’t command it of them or demand it from them. Model it. Show them how you would like to be treated by how you behave and treat them.
You want them to serve you? Then serve them.
Do you want them to love you? Then love them.
Constantly and at all times by your own behavior, attitude, words and deeds demonstrate to others how you want to be treated.
If you are self centered and selfish, you are telling others that is how you want them to behave as well, so don’t be angry when they reflect back to you how you are behaving.
Finally we remember the words of St Paul in today’s Epistle: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-8)
Darkness is what we already have, but the Gospel commands are the light which shines out of our darkness and gives us the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. God’s commandments can make even this earth into heaven.